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5 Good Words of Pastoral Advice That Stuck

Oct 09, 2014 | Jared C. Wilson

adviceI took my first vocational ministry position the summer I graduated high school (1994), becoming the youth minister for Zion Chinese Baptist Church. (You read that right.) In the twenty years since, I’ve heard a lot of good words on ministry and ministry life, and while a lot has been good, a few choice bits of wisdom have stuck with me since I heard them and have proven truer and truer over the years. Here are just five.

1. “The core you start with isn’t the core you finish with.” – Bill Hybels

Hybels did not say this to me personally, but he said it in a workshop at the 1996 Willow Creek Church Leadership Conference. I don’t know why it stuck with me then — I was a youth pastor at a Willow model church, but I wasn’t thinking in terms of church planting or anything then. I’ve sifted out a lot I’ve heard from the church growth guys, but this one I’ve kept and it’s pretty true, in a variety of ways. I’ve had guys I was close with, been on leadership teams and in the trenches with, decide the whole “living a Christian life thing” wasn’t for them. You’re biggest fans can turn into your biggest critics, and often do. Mainly because they are your biggest fans because there’s some kind of idolatry they’re getting out of you, seeing you as a functional savior in some way. And then you disappoint them and BOOM: it’s all over. But even if nobody turns on you or falls out with you, the longer you go in ministry, you see the seasons of life and the growth of a church or ministry takes the rose-colored glasses off of “doing ministry” with the same people forever. Some people get to do that. Most don’t. The core you start with is not the core you finish with.

2. “You must renounce comfort as the chief value of your life.” – Mike Ayers

Mike was my first pastoral mentor, the guy whose ministry actually kept my wife and I sane and in ministry after I’d had a bad experience at a previous church that almost made me give up church altogether. He was the first guy to really take me under his wing and trust me and empower me and take me seriously, even as a young punk. I served as a youth minister at his church and learned a lot, especially about loving the lost and building relationships. Mike and his family have been through a lot themselves, so when I heard him say this line in a sermon, I knew it came from a place of authenticity. It stuck with me. And it’s exceptionally important for all Christians, including pastors, who can get too comfortable with praise and growth and too despondent with criticism and conflict.

3. “Whatever your elders are, your church will become.” – Ray Ortlund

It’s no news to regular readers that Ray is my Yoda. I don’t remember the context of him saying this, but I remember him saying it and I took it to heart. When we went about establishing elders at Middletown, I remembered this sound word of wisdom. So I looked not just for guys who met the biblical requirements for eldership, as high a bar as that is, I also tried to get guys with different personality types and outlooks and perspectives on theological non-essentials. But I also became a stickler for the biblical qualifications that many churches seem to gloss over — long-temperedness, gentleness, good public reputations, etc. If my church is going to be come like the leadership that is modeled for them, I wanted conformity on the biblical qualifications and orthodoxy but high maturity and as much diversity as possible otherwise.

4. “Don’t say something about someone you won’t say to them.” – Andy Stanley

I heard this in a Stanley teaching series called “Life Rules,” which with only a few caveats I recommend. I’ve used it numerous times. As with Hybels, I don’t resonate with a whole lot Stanley says, but this word of advice has stuck with me and I’ve used it with great fruitfulness. In Christian community and in pastoral ministry, the opportunities for gossip and other relational sins are practically infinite. I am a great sinner who screws up a lot, but I’ve tried to maintain this rule for how I talk about people. If I have a problem with someone, I either swallow it or I take it to them. If I’m not willing or able to do that, I certainly can’t talk about it with others. There’s so much crooked speech in the church, it’s ridiculous. Stanley’s advice is good for keeping the lines straight and the accounts current.

5. “You don’t just wipe away the web; you’ve got to crush the spider.” – Steven Taylor

Pastor Steve was one of my pastors when I was a kid. I think I was in the ninth grade when he said this in a sermon at Sandia Baptist Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I confess I have forgotten a lot of what he preached, but this line hooked into my brain and got me. For a kid with a tender conscience and struggling with lust, my eyes were opened to how I ought to approach the war on the flesh. Pastor Steve said you don’t just wipe away the effects of sin; you’ve got to be “extreme,” go to the source of temptation. In my adolescent way of thinking at the time, I went home and took the TV set out of my room. Since then, I’ve been able to apply this principle to even deeper actions of spiritual warfare, looking to the idolatrous roots of my behavioral sins as often as I can. But the advice is still good. Don’t just wipe away the web; crush the spider.

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I Love the Church, and That’s Why I Resigned

Oct 06, 2014 | Jared C. Wilson

SealYesterday morning I undertook the difficult task of resigning the pastorate of Middletown Springs Community Church. The last five years have been a tremendous joy to me and my family, and making that announcement was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done.

I shared with my congregation that the sense of discontent I’d been feeling for more than a year had become gradually clearer and clearer to me as a matter of personal deficiency. This is always hard to admit. When I first began feeling overwhelmed, overburdened, over-tired, I simply assumed we were in a difficult ministry season. And we were. We still are. Our church has been through some tremendous suffering over the last couple of years, and with the growth we’ve experienced, new challenges and a higher pace of ministry with heavier demands have compounded the intense sorrow we’ve all been walking through.

But I eventually realized the problem was much deeper than that. It wasn’t entirely out there. It was in here. The truth is that I reached my capacity in leading the church well. I’d come to believe that I’d brought the church as far as my gifts would allow. Now, nobody else was saying that. But I knew it was true. And I didn’t know what to do with it.

I am not one to run. Especially since things have been going so well on the growth front. We have more than tripled in attendance the last five years, but even more importantly, we have seen an increase in souls saved by Christ and baptized, in young families and mature leaders moving to our area to join us on mission, and in forward-thinking vision, culminating largely in our efforts to plant a church in downtown Rutland, Vermont. So there’s nothing to run from, really. Nobody’s mad at me. There’s no conflict pushing me out or great sin disqualifying me. There’s just me. There’s just me realizing, “I don’t think I’m the right guy for what comes next.” It’s as if God has led me to the brink of the promised land and said, “You can’t go in.”

And while I was praying that God would change his mind — or just show me how to manage in the meantime — Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary called me. I was not looking to leave Vermont. I was not sending out resumes. I had been offered jobs before and have always flatly said “no” without thinking. But this time, I listened. I needed to. And the call was no less visionary, no less mission-minded, no less gospel-centered than my call to Middletown Springs. When I learned more about the seminary’s plan to engage, equip, and encourage local church pastors, something stirred in me. Something clicked in place, as if the tricky combination in my heart had finally landed on that last digit. I see clearly that a door has opened to a new season of serving the church with more intensity and a greater fit.

In March, we will be moving to Kansas City so that I may serve full-time at Midwestern Seminary and College as the Managing Editor of Resources and Director of Communications. There I will be leading a team of creatives and writers passionate about telling Midwestern’s story and developing ministry resources for the church. I am thrilled about this transition, because I share Midwestern’s love for the pastors who love their churches. They are the faithful, patient, unsung heroes in our day, and I am excited to serve them — as well as the young men who are becoming them.

I will continue to write and travel, speak and preach. We will seek out a local church to call home, a place to worship together as a family and to serve as the Lord leads, to be fed as I have fed. Lord willing, after some time, I would love to submit to some smaller role as shepherd according to my capacity. I do believe that is God’s calling on my life. At this time, he is asking me to answer it in contributing to the growing ministry of Midwestern. (We will be releasing some major projects in the months ahead, so stay tuned.) If my work has blessed you in any way over the last few years, I ask that you’d pray for my wife and daughters, for me, and for the seminary, that through this work God’s Son would be made more visible in the world and trusted as saving and satisfying.

And please pray for my church. Like my family, they are deeply saddened about this parting. Many in the congregation are shocked, confused. And as we all process this bittersweet transition together, I am planning over the next five months to continue pointing them to Christ with all the energy God works within me. Middletown Springs Community Church is unlike any church I’ve ever been privileged to call family. It has been an exceeding joy to be their shepherd for this relatively short time. They are, in the good sense, as Paul says, “my boast.” I will miss them terribly, because I love them with my guts. And because they have loved me and my family in the same way.

But they will be better than great after I’ve left. I am not taking the gospel with me! It is too hidden in their hearts. And I leave them, by God’s grace, spiritually healthier and more fixed on Christ’s finished work than I found them. I envy the man who has the honor to hold their hands and point them to Christ next. He will not be worthy of them. But he will be more worthy than me, which is what they need. And I’m grateful and honored that they have asked me to lead the process in finding that man.

churchweb_mediumWhen I finished my announcement yesterday morning, I began my planned exposition of 1 Corinthians 3:1-9. It’s important stuff. Sometimes I am a planter, other times a waterer, but all the time I am “not anything” (v.7). Middletown Church is “God’s field, God’s building” (v.9). I am learning with my flock and through them, by the Spirit’s power, how to point them to Jesus and get myself the heck out of the way. I hope God always grants me the grace to do that.

Christ the Lord is everything.

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Gentleness is Not an Option

Sep 25, 2014 | Jared C. Wilson

“[G]entleness is essential to Christian living. It is not an add-on. It is . . . one of the few indisputable evidences of the Holy Spirit alive and well within someone. Gentleness is not just for some Christians, those wired in a certain way. It cannot merely be an inherent character trait, a result of personality or genetic predisposition, because it is listed as part of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. Looked at another way, nowhere in the New Testament’s lists of spiritual gifts is gentleness identified as one such gift. It is not a gift of the Spirit for a few. It is the fruit of the Spirit for all. To be gentle is to become who we were meant to be; that is, to return to who we once were, in Eden.”

– Dane C. Ortlund, Edwards on the Christian Life: Alive to the Beauty of God (Crossway), 91.

Related:
Pastor as Nursing Mother: Cultivating Gentleness in Ministry

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The Gospel of Genesis 13

Sep 23, 2014 | Jared C. Wilson

After the shameful way Abram comes off in Genesis 12 — going into self-protection mode, trying to control the situation, putting his wife in danger by passing her off as his sister — he certainly comes off brilliantly in Genesis 13. Perhaps newly chastened, he is ready in this moment to trust in God’s sovereignty.

Something has been going on between Abram and his nephew Lot. They’ve both got lots of land but apparently it’s not big enough for the both of them. Some kind of conflict has arisen in the mix of their parallel prosperity. But Abram seeks the better way; he’s realized what is happening. Their “stuff” is coming between them and he does something remarkable:

Abram says to Lot: “Hey, take your pick. Whatever you want, you can have. Take whatever looks good to you, and I’ll take the rest, whatever’s leftover. If you want east, I’ll take west. If you want west, I’ll take east. No big whoop.”

What’s Abram doing? He’s giving Lot first choice, but really he’s giving God first choice. He’s abandoning himself to God’s sovereignty. “God, take me wherever you want. I’ve tried doing this my own way; I’ve tried controlling things. I’ve tried manipulating the situation; I’ve tried getting everything. And I know this is an offense against you.” So he goes back to the first altar, reaffirms his commitment, cries out to God and says, “Take me where you will.”

This means giving Lot first dibs and taking the scraps. And then look at what God does:

The LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted. Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.”

Abram gave up and God gave him everything!

He said “I’ll take east, or I’ll take west. Whichever.” And God says, “How about — ALL OF IT?”

This is another dynamic we see throughout all of Scripture.

Mark 10:31 “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
Matthew 23:12 “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
1 Peter 5:6 “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,”

And probably the two most applicable to this passage:

Matthew 6:33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
Matt. 5:5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”

Abram meekly said “Whatever you want,” and God gave him the earth. It’s like, he gave up his seat on the bus, and God gave him the keys.

When we’re going around stuffing ourselves with every pleasure and desire we can get our hands on, it’s because ultimately we’re looking for God. And so none of it satisfies. But when we finally turn our gaze to God and say “I only want you” — we get him.

But isn’t this where we run into trouble? Because we can’t quite get ourselves empty, can we? I mean, can you pray for five minutes without thinking of that funny thing you saw on Facebook? Can you read your Bible for very long without getting distracted about that deadline at work?

Abram looks great right here. But we’re only three chapters away from his trying to manipulate the situation and control the covenant with his own scheming all over again!

It’s impossible for us to empty ourselves because we’re constantly so full of ourselves.

None of us can give up everything. Before Christ, we are sinners — dead and full of utter need. But even after Christ has justified us, until he comes back to vanquish sin finally and fully, we still wrestle with our sin. We are sinner-saints. So some days we’re the Abram of Genesis 13 but most days we’re the Abram of Genesis 12.

If we’re looking at this principle that to give up everything gains everything and emptying is the way to exalting, we are on the right track but we can never arrive in and of ourselves. In ourselves, we never quite give up everything. In ourselves, we will never truly become empty.

And now we see just how much we need Jesus. We need the Jesus who loves us in our Genesis 13 moments and our Genesis 12 moments. We need the Jesus whose favor rests on us purely by the grace of his Father and the power of his Spirit – not because of anything we’ve done or not done – purely by his sovereign pleasure. We need the Jesus who can sort through our mixed motives, who can heal our deepest wounds, who can free us from our strongest prisons, who can rescue us from our deepest graves, the ones we dig ourselves.

Only Jesus has truly given up everything in order to gain everything. Only Jesus has truly emptied himself (Phil. 2:6-11). And in his emptying, comes his exalting. In his emptying and exalting, comes our own.

So there was a time that Jesus was in the midst of the wilderness, and he was hungry and weary and the devil took him by the shoulder and showed him the vast multitudes of glorious cities in the valley below and said to him, “Look, Jesus, there doesn’t need to be conflict between us. There’s plenty for everyone. Look east and west. Look at all the beautiful riches out there just waiting for you. Why don’t you take your pick? You can have it all.”

And where Abram said to Lot, “there’s plenty of room for both of us,” Jesus instead turns to Satan and says, “You know, there’s not enough room in this world for both of us. So you’re going to have to leave.”

And I picture Satan beginning to tremble. Suddenly that vast desert didn’t seem so big. Suddenly he felt invisible walls closing in around him. Suddenly he realized the tables had turned. Jesus was not his prey; he was Jesus’!

No, the Son of God says to that ancient enemy and to sin itself, “The cosmos is not big enough for both of us, because I am filling all things. I am the omnipotent God, and my glory will cover the earth like the waters cover the sea. So evil’s days are numbered.”

So Abram moved his tent and came and settled by the oaks of Mamre, which are at Hebron, and there he built an altar to the Lord
— Genesis 13:18

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Enter This Giveaway from 20 Schemes

Sep 16, 2014 | Jared C. Wilson

Win a T-shirt and book from 20 Schemes:

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He Must Increase; Our Churches Must Decrease

Sep 03, 2014 | Jared C. Wilson

This Way to the Holy Ghost RevivalThere is one thing that the churches experiencing historic revival have in common: they seemed overrun with the sense of the glory of God. They preached the gospel and the response was, as some describe, that “glory came down.”

Now that’s not something you can schedule. You can’t advertise it on the church signboard: “Every Sunday: Glory comes down.” But it is something we can aim for, yearn for, cast a vision for, desire, crave, proclaim. You can’t program the glory, but you can plead for it.

See, nobody ever said, “We changed our music style and revival broke out.”
Nobody ever said, “We moved from Sunday School classes to small groups and the glory of God came down.”
Nobody ever said, “You would not believe the repenting unto holiness that happened when our pastor started preaching shorter sermons.”
(I’m just sayin’.)

No, all those things and more can be good things. Done for the right reasons, those can be very good moves to make, but the glory of God is best heard in the proclaimed gospel of Jesus Christ. So that’s where the glory-aimed church is going to camp out.

We all talk a big game about the glory of God, but it is a rare church that takes God’s glory seriously as the purpose of everything.

I preached on the servant-hearted harmony and burden-bearing of Romans 15 to my church last Sunday, and one point I stressed is that we aren’t to strive for these things in order to become an impressive church. The exhortations of Paul in Romans 15:1-5 are there so “that together,” verse 6 reads, “you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

I cast the vision over to Ephesians 1. Why has he blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places? Why has he chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him? Why has he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will? Ephesians 1:6: “For the praise of his glorious grace.”

I took them to 1 Peter 2:9. Why did he make us a chosen race? Why did he make us a royal priesthood? Why did he makes us a holy nation? Why did he call us a people for his own possession? “That we may proclaim the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

Over and over again, from Old Testament through New, we learn the foundational truth echoed by the Westminster divines, that “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” We make realized the 5th of the Reformational solas: Soli Deo Gloria, “to God alone be the glory.”

A gospel-centered church makes that not just a spiritual slogan but her spiritual blood. A gospel-centered church is not aiming to be the nicest church in town. That’d be nice. A gospel-centered church is not aiming to be the most popular church in town. That’d be cool. A gospel-centered church is not aiming to be the smartest church in town. That’d be okay.

No, a gospel-centered church doesn’t aim to be the anything-est church in town because it’s not comparing itself to other churches, but to the holiness of God, which will shrink the church down to size in its own estimation and make her hunger for the holiness that only comes from the riches of Christ in the gospel. A gospel-centered church aims to be a gospel-proclaiming church in town. Because that would be glorious.

A gospel-centered church is okay with its own decreasing — in reputation, in acclaim, in legacy, even in (gasp) numbers, but especially in self-regard — so long as it serves the increasing of the sense of the glory of God.

Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
— Romans 15:7

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Walk With God For Joy

Sep 02, 2014 | Jared C. Wilson

George-WhitefieldNo, Victoria Osteen is not exactly right when she says we ought to do good for ourselves instead of for God, but neither is she totally wrong. She’s derailed and in the ditch, but the right track is in eyesight.

Osteen is not totally wrong, because walking with God is a — let the reader understand — happy thing. It’s a different kind of happy, to be sure. But it’s a happy thing nonetheless. Not happy-go-lucky. Not happy in moments or gifts. But happy in the Sovereign, in the Giver. George Whitefield preaches:

“As it is an honorable, so it is a pleasing thing, to walk with God. The wisest of men has told us, that ‘wisdom’s ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths peace’. And I remember pious Mr. Henry, when he was about to expire, said to a friend, ‘You have heard many men’s dying words, and these are mine: A life spent in communion with God, is the pleasantest life in the world’. I am sure I can set to my seal that this is true. Indeed, I have been listed under Jesus’ banner only for a few years; but I have enjoyed more solid pleasure in one moment’s communion with my god, than I should or could have enjoyed in the ways of sin, though I had continued to have gone on in them for thousands of years. And may I not appeal to all you that fear and walk with God, for the truth of this? Has not one day in the Lord’s courts been better to you than a thousand? In keeping God’s commandments, have you not found a present, and very great reward? Has not his word been sweeter to you than the honey or the honeycomb? O what have you felt, when, Jacob-like, you have been wrestling with your God? Has not Jesus often met you when meditating in the fields, and been made known to you over and over again in breaking of bread? Has not the Holy Ghost frequently shed the divine love abroad in your hearts abundantly, and filled you with joy unspeakable, even joy that is full of glory? I know you will answer all these questions in the affirmative, and freely acknowledge the yoke of Christ to be easy, and his burden light; or (to use the words of one of our collects), ‘His service is perfect freedom’. And what need we then any further motive to excite us to walk with God?” (Whitefield, Walking with God)

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A Gospeled Church

Sep 02, 2014 | Jared C. Wilson

Christ_Taking_Leave_of_the_ApostlesMay the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus
— Romans 15:5

The gospel cannot puff us up. It cannot make us prideful. It cannot make us selfish. It cannot make us arrogant. It cannot make us rude. It cannot make us gossipy. It cannot make us accusers. So the more we press into the gospel, the more the gospel takes over our hearts and the spaces we bring our hearts to, and it stands to reason, the less we would see those things antithetical to it.

You cannot grow in holiness and holier-than-thou-ness at the same time. So a church that makes its main thing the gospel, and when faced with sin in its ranks doesn’t simply crack the whip of the law but says “remember the gospel,” should gradually be seeing grace coming to bear.

It works out this way individually. The most gracious people you and I know are people who have had an experience of grace and fixate on grace. The least gracious people we know are people who may know about grace academically, “theologically,” but don’t seem the least bit changed by it and really have a fixation on the law. They have an inordinate fixation on who did what wrong and what they deserve.

The same dynamic takes place in churches. Where grace and law are taught academically but law is “felt” as the operating system of the church, you will likely have a stifling, gossipy, burdensome environment. Where grace and law are taught theologically but grace is felt as the operating system of the church, you will see people begin to flourish, breathe. (You’ll also attract more sinners, which is where religious people start getting a little antsy.)

But the message of grace made preeminent will generate an atmosphere of grace.

This is why the harmony with each other of Romans 15:5 is “in accord with Jesus Christ.” It’s not predicated on having a bunch of stuff in common. It’s not predicated on common race or social class. It’s not predicated on a common special interest or political cause. It’s not predicated on all being theology nerds, liking the same authors, being Reformed or Arminian or somewhere in between. It’s not predicated on all being Republicans or Democrats. It’s not predicated on all being for social justice. It’s not predicated on all being homeschoolers or public schoolers. It’s not predicated on music styles or preaching styles or anything like that. All of that sort of commonality produces a very fragile harmony.

It is instead predicated on our common Savior, Jesus Christ, compared to whom we are all sinners who fall short of God’s glory, and from whom we have all received grace upon grace. It’s impossible to bask in the glorious grace of Jesus Christ and at the same time toot your own horn. So the more that we together focus on the gospel of Jesus, the more together we will walk in accordance with him and therefore in harmony with one another. “Gospel doctrine,” our friend Ray Ortlund says, “creates a gospel culture.”

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Help Us Plant a Church In Rutland, Vermont

Aug 27, 2014 | Jared C. Wilson

RedeemerChurchRutlandPrintv2

I am not a big fan of using the blog to raise money for stuff, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t let you know about an important missional opportunity in this New England region so many of my readers care deeply about.

I would like to introduce you to Redemption Church and invite you to partner with my church in Middletown Springs, Vermont as we seek to plant worship of our Savior in the burgeoning mission field of Rutland, Vermont.

Since my family’s arrival here in 2009, our church has seen a steady increase in mission-minded believers with a heart to plant a gospel-centered church in the downtown area of Rutland, Vermont, the largest town nearest us and the second largest town in the state.

Our church has more than doubled in the last 4 years, and we have already established a solid, mature, multi-generational core team in the city of Rutland that has already begun the work of community groups and evangelism. Our plan now, Lord willing, is to move from twice-monthly prayer gatherings to weekly “simple church” gatherings with the goal of launching public worship services for Redemption Church on Easter Sunday, 2015.

You are likely aware of the spiritual climate in New England generally and Vermont specifically, but to give you some perspective about the mission field in our area:

o The state of Vermont is regularly charted as the least-churched, least-religious state in our nation. There is roughly 1 church for every 5,000 people, and those churches are all over the map theologically.

o There are roughly 16,000 people in the city of Rutland proper and only 2% attend any church.

o There are approximately 5 evangelical churches not in decline in the greater Rutland area and there are none directly in downtown.

o There is a growing epidemic of poverty, physical and sexual abuse, and drug addiction in the city. $2 million in drugs is imported to VT daily. (The New York Times recently highlighted Rutland’s growing heroin problem.)

o While there are a few evangelical churches doing good work in our region, the need for gospel-centered missional churches is great.

Middletown Springs Church has been praying and planning toward our role in serving God’s work in this important mission field for years now, and we believe God would have us move forward now, sending our own Rutlanders out into their own community and launching an extension of our church, a “satellite campus” of sorts with its own elders, ministries, and vision. Until we have identified a lead planter to take over the work, I will be providing the primary preaching and leading.

Here’s where you come in: We need you to pray for this work. I am sending this to you because I know you have a heart for God’s mission in the world, including in the hardest regions of our own nation. Rutland fits the bill. Please pray for us. But you should also know that Middletown Church is still a small, rural congregation made up of folks with average resources employing a modest budget.

Our church has dedicated approximately 9% of our projected annual operating budget to fund this specific work. We are seeking to raise the remaining need to further God’s mission in the city. Can you help?

If your church or organization would feel led to serve our mission this way – either with regular financial support or in a one-time gift — you can contribute by making your contributions out to Middletown Springs Community Church, writing “Redemption Church Plant” in the MEMO portion* and sending them to:

Middletown Springs Community Church
PO Box 1213
Middletown Springs, VT 05757

We would be incredibly grateful if you could help in this way. Whether you are able to make this commitment or not, I’d be grateful if you would share this need with any family or church you think might be interested in partnering with us.

There is lots to share with you about our efforts here. If you’d like to know more about the church plant or mission in the region in general, please don’t hesitate to message me at jared AT gospeldrivenchurch DOT com. We will also send regular updates on the work to all of our prayer and financial partners.

I hope you will understand I hate asking for money, and while God doesn’t need it, his servants in New England certainly do!

* (Alternatively, if you prefer electronic giving, you may use our church PayPal account email: mscchurch AT gmail DOT com. Please make sure to designate to Redemption Church Plant in the note section.)

Thanks for reading.

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Love Covers Shame

Aug 27, 2014 | Jared C. Wilson

350px-Nuremberg_chronicles_-_f_15vAnd Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside.
— Genesis 9:22

Nakedness is still considered (mostly) immodest today and people with good sense don’t let anybody but their spouse or their doctor see what they normally cover up, but in the biblical times, nakedness was considered extremely shameful. To see someone in their nakedness was an extreme violation, an act of disrespect, of dishonor.

Whether Ham sees his father on purpose or not, we can’t rightly say, but in any event he appears to find Noah’s shame amusing and he goes and tells his brothers, probably joking about it. He has an opportunity to cover his dad’s shame and instead he exposes him further.

What’s interesting about this event in the context of this passage is that Ham’s sin is treated as more serious than Noah’s. Noah has drunken himself into passing out — we’re not talking “getting buzzed” here, we’re talking about getting blacked-out drunk — but the emphasis of wrongdoing in the passage is on Ham for laughing about it.

This doesn’t mean that drunken exposure is not a sin. But it does seem to mean that denying a sinner grace is a bigger one. Couldn’t we say that Jesus certainly had harsher words for the outwardly tidy religious leaders of his day than the drunks? He told them all to “sin no more,” but he seemed to regard intentionally squandered opportunities to cover shame as somehow more heinous than (so-called) “sins of the flesh.”

We commit the sin of Ham whenever we hear of someone’s struggle, of sin, of failure, and instead of figuring out how to bring grace to them, we “run and tell.” We gossip. We pile on.

We should note that in all the Bible’s words about reproof and rebuke and discipline, the Bible never says to “confess one another’s sins.”

And Ham has capitalized on his father’s great vulnerability by heaping more shame on his shame.

But his brothers had more grace.

Genesis 9:23 reads, “Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned backward, and they did not see their father’s nakedness.”

Some translations read “the garment,” indicating that this garment is the one Noah had with him in the tent, suggesting that Ham even further exposed Noah by taking it fully off and out of the tent with him. Almost as if Ham wanted his father’s shame exposed in order to enjoy it. (I wonder if there’s a lesson there for our tabloid culture and the spiritualized schadenfreude evident on Christian social media about those falling away.)

In any event, Shem and Japheth with the utmost care and reverence, go to cover their father. They do not treat his sin casually. But they do treat it with mercy.

It is possible Peter has this image in mind in 1 Peter 4:8 when he writes, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”

This is what Christians do when confronted with the sins of others; they do what they would want done for them — not shaming, not ridiculing, not lording over — a demonstration of grace.

This doesn’t mean not mentioning someone’s sin or never confronting or rebuking or preaching against sin — it just means doing so with reverence for God and with grace, not to demean or squash or humiliate, but to provide the shelter of God’s love.

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